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Game Thread: Steven Adams out versus Kings, Pelicans to rely on backup centers and Zion Williamson

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Stan Van Gundy turning to small ball might be New Orleans best bet to snare a victory

NBA: Houston Rockets at New Orleans Pelicans Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Steven Adams, who was doubtful to play per Stan Van Gundy in pregame, will sit out Monday’s matchup versus the Sacramento Kings, per the Pelicans PR department. New Orleans will turn to Jaxson Hayes, Nicolo Melli, Willy Hernangomez and probably Zion Williamson in some small ball action.

Adams’ unavailability is a big blow for New Orleans, who look to him to anchor the paint on both ends of the floor. Melli and Hayes have struggled immensely behind The Big Kiwi in backup minutes, and Hernangomez has only appeared in three games to date.

To be honest, pushing the pace and utilizing Zion Williamson at center more than usual should probably be included in the game plan. In a very small sample size (96 possessions) in non-garbage time minutes, the Pelicans’ offense has shined with Zion at the 5, scoring 1.23 points per possession (99th percentile) according to Cleaning The Glass.

The defense hasn’t fared as well (1.13 PPP — 39th percentile), but with the Pelicans outscoring opponents by 10.2 points per 100 possessions with Zion at the five, it’s probably SVG’s best course of action if Melli, Hayes and Hernangomez are not producing in tonight’s first half.

For more on today’s matchup, please give our preview a read.

Who: New Orleans Pelicans (7-11) vs Sacramento Kings (8-11)

When: February 1, 7:00 p.m. Central

Where to watch: FSNO

Where to listen: ESPN 100.3 FM

For more Pelicans talk, subscribe to The Bird Calls podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow this author on Twitter at @OlehKosel.